July 17, 2024

Frankenstein: A Warning to Modern Scientific Experimentation

As the first acknowledged novel in the science fiction genre, Mary Shelly’s 1818 story Frankenstein contains ideas of scientific exploration that are applicable to both the 19th century and the modern world. Shelly’s tale of Victor Frankenstein’s successful attempt to artificially give a being life, and the murderous chaos that ensues in his life due to the delinquency of the monster created, displays a “warning” to scientists of the 1800s that can still be headed with the emergence of new technological breakthroughs. The ability to create may not be justified if the product created is harmful to society. Humans must realize that the ability to harness godlike power (i.e. the creation of life on command) is still beyond our control due to our imperfections. In my opinion, many important points of ethics and morals can be deduced from this book. Mary Shelly’s 1818 book Frankenstein displays the dangers of scientific exploration, as well as the human race’s inability to completely control the world around them. In my personal view, I believe we should heed this story as a warning as we continue to push our society forward through scientific and technological advancements.

Frankenstein’s monster, a symbol of irresponsible experimentation.

Shelly’s greatest message throughout the novel is that not all scientific discoveries made will be beneficial to society. In fact, some scientific breakthroughs may actually danger the lives of those involved, as shown in the story. Frankenstein’s creation became a murderous being, taking the lives of his best friend, future wife/cousin (weird), as well as the life of his kid brother. Dr. Frankenstein was so emphatic about successfully creating life in his experiment that he did not consider the consequences of doing so. In result, he saw family members and close friends perish at the hands of his own creation. If the monster had not solely had a feud with Frankenstein, the terror in the story could have been drastically worse. In hindsight, the discovery of reanimation was not worth the killings that occurred as a result. In order to avoid such travesties, science must have a linear progression (such as creating life on the molecular level, working up to larger forms with documented experiments and results). With this progression towards exploration, a travesty such as Frankenstein’s would not occur. 

The second takeaway of Shelly’s Frankenstein is that man is not almighty, and should not reserve the power of God. Frankenstein created his monster in the image of man, as he gave him the physical resemblance and stature of a human being (despite being made from animal parts). However, creating a being in the image of the human race also allows the being to become exposed to our natural flaws, including greed, wrath, anger, the ability to harm, and other negative aspects. After Frankenstein’s abandonment of his monster, the monster gains these inherently human qualities and begins his destruction. However, this only began after Frankenstein (as a creator) abandoned his creation out of fear, showing that he is not fit to be a creator of life. Shelly shows that man’s imperfections should hold us back from playing the role of God, especially when creating life out of death. Until we develop past our human condition, there is too great of uncertainty when going through life-creating experiments. Had Frankenstein not feared his own creation, the creature may not have become violent, but Frankenstein’s natural lack of perfection showed that he took on a task too great for a mortal. Scientists should not pursue the creation of something if they will dread its existence, as shown throughout the story. The ability to play God is not yet in our skillset, and this will remain until we conquer our inherited flaws as a species. 

I believe that there are a lot of parallels between Frankenstein and the unknown scientific world we are navigating through today. Whether it’s the creation of Artificial Intelligence, the cloning of animals, or the implanting of chips inside of humans, Shelly shows two fundamental ideas that we must adhere to: We should not create something if the benefit to society is doubted, and playing the role of an almighty being to a new life form is unwise given the human condition. I think that we need to maintain safeguards in the scientific community that will ensure that ethical and moral aspects are upheld when discovering new technology. Without these policies, experiments that are done for the sake of experimenting could cause another Frankenstein-like situation on a massive scale. Because of the dangers of experimentation, we must view the idea of Frankenstein as a warning to developing our understanding of the world too far and too quickly, as Dr. Frankenstein did himself.

 Sources: 

Frankenstein- http://web.colby.edu/st112a-fall20/files/2020/09/1390446683000-KARLOFF-FRANKENSTEIN-TIGHT-2851305.jpg

 

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